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Poster: JB Date: Feb 17, 2011 11:28am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: What if......

the band never started forcing drums>space>?>jerry ballad>bob rocker every night. i really thought this hurt. to me they became so predictable and that is what really started the downfall. it is around the time they started this that alot of people started to enjoy there music less but i never hear anyone really complain about it all that much. why could they never move some songs around in the later years to keep things interesting. if they had to force drums>space every night why couldnt they do something different before drumz. let it grow,bird song,other one, shakedown,scarlet>drums>fire maybe.

and did the band ever comment on their shitty song selection in the later years. i mean maybe 91-95 wouldn't have been that bad if we could have eliminated ten or so songs from the repertoire that just killed momentum if they had any going.

not trying to be too negative. it sucks that such a large amount of shows are unlistenable. just wonder why they never saw it. or did it just not matter anymore at that point.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Feb 17, 2011 1:33pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

The 68-74 GD almost invariably played on a higher musical level than the 76-95 GD did, but I believe the issue of the setlists being too predictable and formulaic is not the real problem. If it was, why wouldn't we trash the 68-74 era for leaning so heavily on predictable sets? Cryptical->Other One->Cryptical in 68, Dark Star->St Stephen in 69, NFA->GDTRFB->NFA in 71, Playin at the end of 1st set in 72, WRS Prelude->Part 1->Let it Grow in 73. In fact, as a general rule, the Golden Age shows had much more identical setlists for consecutive shows of a given tour than the post retirement era.

I think you could actually make the exact opposite case more convincing. Maybe part of the problem with the post retirement era was too much variety! Playing "Dark Star" every night, the band was forced to dig deep into the improvisation to keep it fresh, but also were able to really polish the musical elements. Thematic elements like Tighten Up, Feelin' Groovy, and "sound concepts" like the Tiger, gave the jams established places to travel between. In the later years, there was a wider range of material and greater night to night variety, but less intensive development of ideas within the instrumental sections.

Another problem I have with the initial hypothesis is that I think the drums/space segments of later era shows were very often by far the best part of the shows, the places where the real spirit of the band still thrived. During the final few years, the only hope of any real full band jamming was usually the transition into the drums. I also think the show structure for the last 15 or so years of touring did represent a very well constructed musical form. If you listen to the first movement of Mozart's adult piano concertos, you will find a common architecture shared by all of them, but with infinite variety of musical material and detail. The progression of a dead show always seemed analogous to me to the kinds of shared structures used by classical composers.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 17, 2011 3:09pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Good points. I see it a bit differently...

I think the complaint was not really about predictable setlists, but the predictable *format*...the inevitable drums>space etc. We all know they had a wider variety of songs in the '90s than ever before, but they surprised people in limited ways. (Saying drums>space was often the best part of the show is like an admission of defeat, if the jams became that limited!)
The second complaint was that a lot of the songs introduced in the '90s are not well-liked by Dead fans....not something you could say about too many early-'70s Dead songs!

And the predictable setlists of '68-74 are not quite how you put it. Once the Dead settled on the first-set warmup/second-set drums>space arrangement, they stuck with it for 17 years! Whereas in the early years, though setlists from show to show would be identical, over a few tours they'd shake things up.
They did the Live Dead format heavily for, oh, a year. The Cryptical reprises got dropped after 2 years; St Stephen got pushed around & dropped & rearranged; Playing in the Band moved out of the first set after 3/4 years (and after giant jam-changes) and became much more unpredictable in what it could lead to; the WRS prelude lasted all of one year. 1972 was pretty rigid; but 1970 and late '73/'74 were probably the most unpredictable sets in their history, when you often didn't really know what was going to come next. These kinds of developments stopped happening after 1977...

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Feb 17, 2011 10:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Overall I completely agree with your comments. I think the really central point is that from 68-74 the creative energy was focused and intense in every single way, performance and songwriting. As new songs were written, the format of the shows continuously evolved during these years, reflecting the nature of the new material. Once they settled on the post-retirement formula, they just dropped new songs "into the rotation". I didn't mean to imply that the night to night repetitions of the early years were a problem.

When I think about the relationship of the pre-retirement era to what came after, I compare it to the greater and lesser works of composers and painters. Mozart's operas are more important music than his piano sonatas, but I'm glad to have the variety, and the sonatas still have a lot of greatness. I know that the post-retirement era generates a lot of controversy that seems to me like a glass half-full vs. half-empty debate. Even though the skeleton of 80s/90s shows was consistent, there was still evolutionary change. The post-terrapin free jams of the 90s, for instance, are often wonderful and represent a reflowering of open improv with a steady rhythm and smooth melodic contour.

I guess my point is that the real question is the quality of the performance, and all the setlist variety in the world can't redeem boring, lifeless performance and an absence of full band jamming. The problem wasn't that Truckin' was always slotted into the first half of the second set - the problem was that they stopped doing huge creative jams coming out of it.

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Poster: buscameby Date: Feb 17, 2011 1:22pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I remember reading something in the late 80's or early 90's that lead by Phil the rest of the band wanted to switch things up and Jerry resisted completely, he was "happy" with the boring shit and didn't want to work at anything and if they forced him he would QUIT.

Yes it did get boring a lot of the time but occasionally he would spin his majic again and it was worth waiting through the bad shows.

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Poster: fenario80 Date: Feb 17, 2011 1:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I agree with a lot of what's come before, but also want to add that this formula was incredibly successful for them. It might not have seemed important, or even occurred to them, when every show was selling out beyond capacity ...

Totally agree that they could have a had a lot more fun than they did with set lists and break outs. The only reason I love 1985 is because - regardless of what you might think of the results - they did experiment a bit more with these things that year.

This post was modified by fenario80 on 2011-02-17 21:11:25

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Feb 17, 2011 12:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I think they ( Jerry especially ) though the formula worked for them . The drums>space sections gave a nice breather for aging buddies . The problem, to me is how ( as mentioned here by others ) how the post dr/space section became so auto-pilot , and rushed . Sometimes you got that " ok, lets finish this and go eat/sex/party/sleep " whatever .
Even without changing the formula, they could have been a little more imaginative . How about space into drums , for a change , etc., etc.
I recall an interview with Hornsby, where he talked about this . "Jerry, how about we open with "Wharf Rat", "No, that's a 2nd set song", "Ok, how about opening the 2nd set with it". "No, that's a post drums song ".
When Brian Wilson was working on the the "Smile" album,( self described "teenage symphony to God ") , a worried Mike Love told him , " Don't fuck with the formula"... It seems a little of this was going on here .

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Poster: high flow Date: Feb 17, 2011 12:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I think Hornsby tried to shake things up and ran in to resistance.

They would have needed a bold new band member or one of the originals to stand up and say "Hey, this shit is boring, let's dabble with the formula....".

I agree, they could have made chnages which would have surprised and delighted the audience. It's a shame they only tried a the rare break-out or shitty cover-tune-encore to this end.

Addition: A typical 1992 show post-drums Wharf Rat, Passing Stones>NFA(clap, clap, clap, clap-clap...ZZZZ). Half the audience leaves and backstage somebody says, "Hey, screw 'I Fought The Law', let's kick'em in the nuts with Viola Lee Blues!". 35 minutes later...history. That would have been sweet.

But alas, I think the encore became a chore and they often phoned it in.


This post was modified by high flow on 2011-02-17 20:14:01

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Feb 17, 2011 12:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Hornsby must have run into some big time resistance as he could hardly get them to play his songs (and he had some good ones). But then maybe he didn't push that hard, I have the impression that he was just glad of the chance to play alongside Garcia.

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Poster: ice9freak Date: Feb 17, 2011 1:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Yeah, it's a shame that a song like "Stander on the Mountain" didn't remain in rotation while Hornsby was on board. Great song.

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Poster: lobster12 Date: Feb 18, 2011 9:52am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Hornsby supposedly didn't like the arrangement on valley road so they dropped that. he was also interviewed by saying he asked the band to open the first set one night with Wharf Rat and jerry said something like, "Oh no, we can't do that"

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Feb 17, 2011 5:34pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

"Passing Stones" LOL.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Feb 17, 2011 12:27pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Their interest,skills,etcetera,were so far gone by 91' that song selection was the least of their problems,regardless of what they played they were a weak approximation of the musicians they were at their peak in 68'-74'.

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Poster: high flow Date: Feb 17, 2011 1:33pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I agree.

Then I always wonder how Jerry was still rippin' with JGB through 1993. The JGB shows were SO much better than the GD shows after 1991. I think "the formula" was partly to blame.

I saw shows from 89-91 which were very good. After that it seems GD was hurry up and wait....and wait.....and even when the music was being played, it seemed like waiting for the band to wake up. With each segment shortened, the shows were so chopped-up that they never got rolling. If they wanted to play just 70 minutes of music, they should have scrapped the formula and stopped pretending to be an all-night party-band.

At JGB shows, you didn't have to wait. Ever. The music was strong and the performances were fulfilling from a audience member's perspective.

Before the wood-chipper, Jean was askin' Jerr' about that disparity there....oh, you betcha.

Jean Lundegaard: I am talking about your potential. You're not a 'C' musician. You've got JGB and David Grisman.

Jerry Garcia: Uh huh...

Jean Lundegaard: Yet you're gettin' 'C' grades with Grateful Dead. It's the disparity here that concerns your dad and me.

Jerry Garcia: [mumbling] Mmmm.

Jean Lundegaard: Ya know what a disparity is?

Jerry Garcia: [attentive now] Yeah!

Jean Lundegaard: Okay, then! That's why we don't want ya goin' out on tour!

This post was modified by high flow on 2011-02-17 21:33:02

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Poster: portmcgroin Date: Feb 17, 2011 2:44pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

JGB was fun and no pressure. The Dead in the later years was work and pressure every night. Jerry band shows were almost like mini vacations for him and I think that shows in his playing. When you watch video footage of the JGB shows he is smiling more and just seems into it, also less vocal flubs. Plus the songs that were played he wanted to play. I feel with his band he wanted to be there with the Dead he had to.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Feb 17, 2011 1:01pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

Viloa Lee would have been 3 minuets ....

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: Feb 18, 2011 7:28am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I think most bands develop an aversion to risk over time. As age sets in and outside interests preoccupy the members, there is a tendency to want to not fuck with the paycheck, to think "I"m living a pretty comfortable life doing things this way- why the hell would I want to risk it?"

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 17, 2011 2:04pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What if......

I think Garcia was the main reason the setlists were so rigid...although he admitted sometimes that the format rarely varied, the Dead played certain familiar segues to death, and songs too often came in the expected places, his defense was that "it works" - the Dead had arrived at a format that was ideal for their show. (The long first-set warmup, the 'psychedelic journey' second-set arrangement from jam>drums>space>ballad>rocker, etc.)

As another poster mentioned, Bruce Hornsby also campaigned for the Dead to vary their setlist arrangement more, only to get the reply, "No, that's the way it is..."

I'm not sure what Weir had to say, but I know Phil Lesh complained about it repeatedly in interviews - saying the band had been ossifying for years and weren't living up to their potential. I'm sure if he'd had more control, Dead setlists would have looked a lot more like P&F setlists!

This is from a 1997 interview where Lesh was asked what he thought of the Dead's '90s shows:

"We had two new keyboard players, and there was the potential for even greater interaction. And many times that did take place, but what I've said in the past, and my
gut feeling, is that it was started to calcify in a sense. For one thing, we had been doing the same two-set format, where we'd open up with the first set, [which] was usually just songs by themselves, and kind of a warm-up set where we'd just feel our way into what was going on, and the vibe, if you will, of the audience; and then a second set where we would try to stretch out and really create something new, especially in the transitions between songs and in the jams that would be part of the songs, and between them.

And we'd been using that format, I guess, since the late '70s, and it was starting to get very predictable. In other words, certain songs would surface in the same points in the set every so often; it was like rotation. And everybody in the band was aware of that, and we were trying to figure out new ways to do it. Sometimes we would decide before we went on for the second set that we were going to tell a story, in the "Space" part, and that all the songs that led up to "Space" would lead up to that story, and the songs after that would lead away from it. And we would try all kinds of mental tricks, really, to bring freshness to that part of the show, and to the format.

But we were really locked in to that kind of format, and as the '90s wore on, it became for me more solidified, in that sense that there weren't as many of those magical shows that were just magic all the way through as there had been in earlier years. And I think that when you play together for 30 years, there is the potential for that to happen. And I'm sorry to say that it did feel to me that that was what was happening in the '90s. Not that there weren't great shows, and not that there wasn't plenty of fine music played. It's just that the consistency and the height of where we could take it, with the help of the audience, was less, I felt, in the '90s. Of course, we didn't survive to play all the way through the '90s, so I can say that -- as I said, everybody in the band was aware of this, and we trying to figure out ways to make it different. And there was a movement afoot to take another year off, and if we had been able to do that, and rethink everything, I think when we came back it would have been very different."

ftp://gdead.berkeley.edu/pub/gdead/interviews/Lesh.04.02.97

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